FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who is preparing to face quarterback Mac Jones and the New England Patriots’ offense on Monday night, said the unit’s defensive-minded approach stands out.
Joseph was complimentary of the Patriots’ talent, noting the way they play reflects play-caller Matt Patricia’s roots as a former defensive coordinator.
“I see an offense that’s running the football well. It’s a very conservative pass game – lot of screens, all kind of screens. It’s how a defensive guy would call offensive plays — ‘let’s not turn the ball over, let’s get 4 yards a play, and let’s try to burn clock,'” he said.
“That’s what they’re doing and that’s what he’s going to do on Monday night. He’s going to be patient. Maybe take a shot from time to time. But for the most part, it’s run game, it’s quick game, and it’s screens.”
That approach was at the root of Jones’ frustration boiling over on the sideline in last Thursday’s 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Jones later explained that he was calling for less of the “quick game” and more deep throws down the field, adding that his rant wasn’t directed at anyone in particular and intended to create a spark for the team.
The Patriots were short-handed along the offensive line, which might have contributed to the approach one week after Jones threw for a career-high 382 yards in a loss to the Vikings. But it’s been a struggle for the offense for extended stretches of the season, as the unit ranks tied for last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, 25th on third down, 25th in sacks taken per pass play and 28th in total first downs.
Head coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week that it’s “too hard” to make dramatic changes to the offense, adding: “If we can just do, consistently, what we’re doing, I think we’ll be all right.”
Joseph said the Cardinals will be focused on running back Rhamondre Stevenson on Monday, calling him a “special” player and adding, “the offense definitely goes through him.”
Despite the Patriots’ lower rankings in several key categories, Joseph — whose defense ranks last in the NFL in the red zone and 31st in points allowed — sees potential for their offense.
“It’s scary when you watch the group because they have so much talent around Mac, and Mac’s a good, young quarterback. He can process information quickly, the ball’s out of his hands quickly. He’s very, very smart,” he said.
“So you’re kind of waiting for it explode, because they have so much talent on offense. But it’s been run, quick game and it’s been more screens. Hopefully they don’t change that much Monday for us.”
Receiver Jakobi Meyers, who leads the team with 593 receiving yards and is second with 50 catches, is officially in concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head last Thursday. That puts his status in question for Monday’s game.
ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.